Have you ever shot Silly String at someone? I have memories
of camps and birthday parties with silly string fights and the annoying cleanup
that always followed.
Silly String is one of those accidental products. The inventors
were trying to formulate a hardening foam that could be sprayed on a broken leg
to form a cast in the field. The medical product didn’t pan out, but the
researchers noticed how much fun it was to shoot—and so the product lives on as
a kid’s toy.
In 2006, a soldier named Todd Shriver wrote home asking his
parents to send him some Silly String. He didn’t want to ambush his friends,
though. He wanted to save their lives from ambush.
Shriver and his unit realized that silly string made the
prefect booby trap detector. When entering a suspicious place, the soldiers
could spray the silly string across the room. If there were any tripwires to
IEDs, the string would land on the invisible wire harmlessly and identify its
location. There’s no telling how many lives this silly invention has saved.
I wish there were a spiritual version of silly string that
could be sprayed across our lives. Real dangers surround us. Forces of evil are
at work in our world, and too often we walk around totally blind to their destructive
potential, until we trip the trap and it is too late.
“Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil
prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” (1 Peter 5:8)
There’s a simple recipe. Place three Oreos in the middle of
a room with four 5-year olds. Tears will ensue.
Even as children, we default to selfishness. The things we
do initiatively are the things that are self-gratifying or self-preserving. We
don’t teach kids to be selfish. We teach them to share.
Youth is temporary. Immaturity can last a lifetime. There
are an awful lot of grownups who never got taught that the world does not
revolve around them. Too many adults throw temper tantrums and feel justified
in gratifying every impulse they have. If we assume that our kids will grow out
of impulsiveness and selfishness, we’re probably going to be disappointed. We
need to teach self-discipline and generosity.
That’s why the early church is so impressive to me. Listen
to how Luke described them:
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and
the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon
every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles.
And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were
selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all,
as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking
bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts,
praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their
number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47 ESV)
None of this is “natural” or “normal” human behavior. They
learned it from someone. I wonder who that might have been…
Did you know that the average American home is now more than
twice the size of a home from the 1950’s? But the average American family is smaller
than it was in those days.
Did you know that the average American income is higher than
it was in the 1950’s, even when you account for inflation? In 1950, the average
American had less than $2,000 in total personal debt. Today’s average is
$10,168, not includingmortgages.
Despite the fact that we enjoy the highest standard of
living on the planet, the best technology, and incredible access to
opportunities, “it has been over fifty years since Americans described
themselves to pollsters as very happy.” (See David Myers, The American
Hear me well: I’m not asking to go back to the good ol’
days. Solomon said not to ask that question (Ecclesiastes 7:10). Here’s what I
am asking: what has gone wrong? Why are we unsatisfied?
Perhaps, in our pursuit of happiness, we have traded the
things that bring us real meaning for things that are hollow. Only after we
bite into the promises of our culture do we find out that they are empty and
unsatisfying. The antidote is simple: focus on the simple things that matter
most. Invest in your faith, your family, and your friends. All the other stuff
is just stuff.